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Quate wins National Medal of Science for Microscopy Work

STANFORD - Calvin F. Quate, whose work with new forms of microscopy is leading to greater understanding of atomic processes, has won the National Medal of Science.

Quate, the Leland T. Edwards Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering and a senior researcher at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, is the 20th Stanford faculty member to win the prestigious award.

His citation reads: "For his contributions to microscopy and for the invention of the scanning acoustic microscope and the atomic force microscope."

The medal, the nation's highest scientific honor, will be given to Quate by President Bush on Tuesday, June 23. The winners are selected by the Committee on the National Medal of Science, which receives nominations from the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific and engineering organizations. The National Science Foundation provides administrative services for the committee.

Three hundred and four medals have been given since the award was established in 1962.

Quate was born and raised in the tiny desert community of Baker, Nev., and was educated until the age of 11 in a one-room schoolhouse. His family moved to Salt Lake City, and after getting his B.S. from the University of Utah, Quate came to Stanford to study under famed physicist W. W. Hansen.

He has been on the Stanford faculty since 1961, and has been chairman of the department of applied physics and associate dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Quate said he became interested in using new technologies for microscopy because, while studying microwaves and acoustics, he realized that the acoustical waves were the same wavelength as the light used in optical microscopes.

Quate invented the acoustic microscope and patented the device for Stanford. It is now being produced commercially by one German and two Japanese companies.

Using acoustical waves permitted scientists to look at different properties of materials, such as elasticity, hardness and softness, and to look at materials that were opaque to the eye.

Quate now has moved to other types of imaging devices, including the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), first developed by IBM researchers in Zurich, Switzerland. The tunneling microscope permits unique views of conducting materials, substances containing electrons. A variant of that device, the atomic force microscope (ATM), does the same thing for insulating materials.

The STM uses a very sharp metal tip to scan over a conductive sample. A small voltage is applied to the system so that electrons can "tunnel" in one direction, forming a measurable current. A computer turns the current into images.

The ATM uses a laser to measure the tips movements up and down over insulating materials.

With both devices, Quate and his colleagues can produce images of atoms on the surface of minerals. Both devices have considerable commercial and scientific potential, Quate said.

In biology, their instruments permit researchers to look at molecules in aqueous solutions, the native environment. In surface science, the instruments can permit scientists to watch molecules being laid down in electrochemical processes. Engineers in the semiconductor industry can watch the roughness on the surface of materials such as silicon, and look at the extremely thin lines on the surfaces of semiconductors, lines that have gotten too thin to see on optical microscopes.

Quate is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Microscopical Society.

He is the author or co-author of more than 180 publications.

Quate currently is at Sematech in Austin, Texas.



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